This time tomorrow, People around the world will have downloaded the Consumer Preview for Windows 8. A major overhaul of the interface and combining touch with a traditional desktop OS; not just for laptops and desktops but also tablets. A response to the iPad and the army of Android tablets in an unclear market that has already seen well known OEMs retreat. To say this is a big deal would be an understatement.
This is the big bet and the dice haven’t been thrown yet.
For the last decade Microsoft has had an obituary written about it almost daily and not without reason. Microsoft has largely ignored the consumer space and when it has tried to compete has netted mixed results. The Xbox, Microsoft’s gaming console, has been a success but only after a lot of money has been put in. The Zune, was considered an iPod clone at best, got better but no one paid it attention. Then there the Ultra Mobile PCs which just proved that Wintel and its Manufacturing partners didn’t know a thing about creating new device categories. Windows’s reputation as a consumer Os was damaged first by delays in Longhorn (the next OS following Windows XP) then later by the finished product Windows Vista.
Right now reviews for Windows 8 are mixed; many like the Metro UI (which was first seen in Windows Phone 7) but don’t see how well the new interface will work on non-touch devices. Also some wonder why maintain the Windows 7 Aero design for the desktop, which one reviewer described as the drunk uncle who shows up to a family reunion. Windows 8 will have to meet the expectations of its billion person user base; to be both a consumption device as well as a creation device. That means everybody from the IT guy to the person walking into a Best Buy.
So far what we know is this; Microsoft will be releasing the Preview to general public around 9 am ET US. It will contain Semantic Zoom and the Windows Store (Application store). There will be third and first party programs in the store and they will be free. A few attendees will receive prototype Arm devices.
Windows 8 is a new hope and an unknown. It is a hope for its maker Microsoft who want to be a player in this Post-PC landscape of tablets and mobile devices (its core OS MinWin is rumored to be coming to the phone). But its also the hope for device and chip makers. While Google’s Android has done well on smart phones it hasn’t repeated itself with tablets; and a lot of tablet makers are looking at Windows 8 as the software that helps them break into the tablet market.
To me, Windows 8 won’t be the last stand for Microsoft but it will be the last time they have a sure crack at the consumer market without a major overhaul. Its success will not depend on the size of the Windows install base but whether developers embrace the Metro touch UI, pricing, devices, and that the story they put together hits people in the right way. I’m excited but I’m just one guy. The trick is to get everybody hyped.
And that’s all that remains.
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Sorry if this was a rambling mess